Sasha Hamlin - General Care Projects in Thailand
My Arrival in Phuket, Thailand – home for the next month
Words cannot describe how tired I was when I arrived at Krabi airport, I think the only reason I managed the rest of the day was because Nou’s energy rubbed off onto me. I had been emailing Nou, the Projects Abroad Thailand Desk Officer, about my project close to my arrival and she met me with a big hug and even bigger smile so I felt immediately very comfortable.
From Krabi I was driven by the Project’s Abroad driver to Phuket (a 2-3 hour journey) to meet Jip (another Projects Abroad member of staff), who would be looking after me and all the other volunteers in Phuket. Jip was equally as welcoming as Nou and cared for us all like a big sister or auntie. Jip took me to my host family; I had some wonderful Thai food and a very early night!
The next day was induction day, Jip took my on a tour around Phuket, showing me all the popular places, the market, the post office, tourist information and everything else that I could have possibly wanted. She taught me a little Thai, ‘Hello’ ‘Thank you’ etc. and took me for a lovely lunch. The following day Jip and I spent some time going over what activities I had planned to do at work and she helped me come up with some good ideas. The next day was my first day at work…
My care placement
I was working in a day care centre, called Holland House, for extremely underprivileged children. Their circumstances were awful, some had been found begging on the streets, others from construction slums, some had parents in prison or the sex industry. There were also a small handful of children that lived at Holland House because their parents couldn’t look after them.
Despite this, the children were so happy, so polite and well-mannered and nearly always smiling. However they were a bit wild! They needed a lot of calming down and I soon learnt that simply sitting in amongst them with a book and pointing to the pictures whilst teaching the children the word in English calmed them down loads, and they were so keen to impress me with their English!
Daily routine at the care project
The routine of Holland House was very simple:
- 8am – the children arrive, play with toys and read books with me
- 9am – morning prayers and exercise, dancing along to songs like head, shoulders, knees and toes
- 9.30am – a lesson in Thai or English, learning fruits, colours, days and months etc.
- 10am – morning snack, usually milk and a little biscuit
- 10am – 11am – the volunteer’s activity
- 11am – lunch, always lovely and cooked by one of the teachers who’s a chef in her spare time
- 12 – the children get showered, brush teeth, baby-powered, changed and have a nap
- 1pm – volunteers leave and children get picked up at around 2-3pm
After a few days I began to realise that the teachers’ activities for the children weren’t involving the children much, for example if they did some painting the teacher would paint and the children would watch. This wasn’t much fun for the children so in the volunteers’ activity time I made sure all the children get a chance to do some painting themselves. We made colourful fishes and flowers to decorate, we did a long chain of paper people coloured in by the children, we played musical chairs and learnt new songs for morning exercise and much more.
However, on special days like a volunteer’s last day at work and on valentine’s day we did more exciting activities like face painting (which the children absolutely loved), and we even had a day trip to the beach! The day at the beach was by far my highlight of Thailand. The children were ecstatic! We played in the water with lots of toys and they especially loved tipping water over my head!
The staff at Holland House were so lovely; they cared for our happiness so much and always made us feel at home. The staff helped in our activities, which was vital because they translated, and always encouraged the children. They were a large part of my experience and I miss them all.
On my last day at Holland House, as with every volunteer, the teachers got a huge bunch of roses and each child handed me a rose one by one, so I had a chance to say goodbye to each one of them personally. I cried my eyes out that day, I found it very hard to leave and I miss them all, they have left a huge gap in my heart which is going to be extremely hard to fill.
My host family
My host family was a large part of why I enjoyed my time in Thailand so much. The family were a mum, dad and two young teenage daughters. They always cooked beautiful food for us, normally at night we had a bowl of rice each and about 5 or 6 different dishes in the middle of the table to choose from. We always had a good laugh with the family. On my last day I bought my host mum a house plant and she had got me a Thai-style handbag. I miss them all so much.
On the weekends we weren’t at work and we had plenty of time to do a bit of exploring of Thailand. The other volunteers and I would often leave on a Friday afternoon and come home on Sunday evening to go and visit the rest of Thailand. Over these weekends I saw things like the huge Big Buddha which overlooks Phuket, central festival shopping centre, Phuket night market, a weekend in Krabi meeting more volunteers, I went to a Muay Thai night and spent some time at kata beach.
I am a very sociable person and I like to go for a drink at home, and about 30mins from my home was a place called Patong. It had huge nightclubs and I loved going and staying there for the weekend, it was very touristy so I got the chance to meet a lot of other people staying in Thailand, it was good fun, we went there twice. It was great to have the weekends away, but by Sunday I always began to really miss the children at work and couldn’t wait to get back on Monday.
Travelling after my placement
Luckily for me two of my friends from home were in Thailand travelling just as I had finished my placement, so they came to meet me and we went and stayed for a few days on Phi Phi Island, before I had to go home. Phi Phi Island is full of young people from all over the world that are mostly backpacking, so like in Patong we got the chance to meet so many people that were similar to us.
Phi Phi was so beautiful and had such a chilled out vibe. I have never been anywhere else like it. These few days between finishing work and flying home gave me a chance to get adjusted to being away from the children, but when I got home it still hit me.
I miss Thailand every day; my only regret is not staying for longer.